A Moroccan Palette: Arts from Marrakech to Tangier Highlights
April 16-26, 2015
APRIL 17: To Marrakech
Travelers had a mid-morning pick up at Casablanca’s Hotel Tour Blanche and headed off to the legendary city of Marrakech. Travelers began their visit with a presentation on the history of Marrakech in the shadow of the late 12th-century Koutoubia minaret, the symbol of the city and a “reference” of world Islamic art. From there they proceeded on a visit of the Saadian Tombs, the last window left into the splendor of early 17th-century Moroccan interior art, rich in marble and chiseled plaster. Next it was on to the Bahia Palace, a prime example of Moorish-Andalusian art before capping the day off by tapas and an open bar at the hotel.
APRIL 18: Into the Souq & Majorelle Garden
In the morning, travelers explored Marrakech’s bazaars–the largest in the country! They started out crossing the residential quarters of the old city until they arrived at Ben Youssef Medersa, the largest of the theological schools built under the 14th-century Merinid Dynasty. Next door, they stopped at the Museum of Marrakech, housed in a former caïd’s palace, to admire with its eclectic collection of crafts and contemporary art.
After lunch at Bagatelle in the new city, travelers walked through the Majorelle Garden. The garden, twelve acres of botanical and artistic landscape, was restored with dedication by Yves Saint Laurent after he purchased it in the 1980’s, preserving its creator’s vision. Jacques Majorelle, who built the garden, wanted to include the influence of French and Moroccan in the arrangement of the flora. Nearby stands the new addition to the site: the Museum of Berber Culture.
Travelers concluded the evening with dinner accompanied by belly dance performers at the city’s number one bistro, the Comptoir.
APRIL 19: Essaouira
En route to Essauouria, travelers stopped at a local co-op to see how the regions’ precious Argan oil is manually extracted from the nuts of the indigenous Argan trees. Travelers enjoyed a full-day excursion West to the former maritime fortress and contemporary art center of Essaouira. In the city, they toured the colorful port and the massive ramparts. After a lunch of fresh seafood, travelers were treated to a private reception at the foremost gallery for Essaouira’s naïve art movement.
APRIL 20: Marrakech
Travelers began their day with the El Badi Palace of the Saadian Dynasty. Then, they visited the private Dar Tiskwin Museum of Moroccan and sub-Saharan crafts, in the home of rural culture scholar Bert Flint. Dinner was held at a private reception in the garden home of a former US Ambassador.
APRIL 21: The Celliers, cedars and to Fes
Travelers drove to Chateau Roslane, Morocco’s largest winery, for lunch and a private tasting of its prime crus. They continued their drive Southeast into the Middle Atlas Mountains, where they journeyed into the heart of the last forest of giant Mediterranean cedars, hoping to see a band of the indigenous Barbary macaques. From there, it was back Northeast to the spiritual capital Fes, Morocco’s oldest Imperial City.
APRIL 22: Fes
In Fes, an UNESCO World Heritage site, travelers were able to see what is considered the last true example of a medieval Arab city. They began with “Old” Fes and followed the labyrinthine alleys to the Attarine Medersa. Then it was on to the mausoleum of the city’s founder Idriss II and the world’s oldest functioning university, Al Qarawïne. After lunch of local specialties within the medina, they continued to “New” Fes and could see the pottery workshops and zellige tiled mosaics. Dinner was at the Maison Blue.
APRIL 23: Volubilis, Meknes & to Tangier
An early departure West for the vast ruins of Volubilis, Rome’s regional commercial hub until the 3rd C. CE, renowned for its numerous mosaics still in situ. Next, former Imperial City Meknes, to see its astounding 17th-C. granary, meant to have fed the city’s population and the sultan’s 12,000(!) horses for up to a year-long siege (World Heritage Site), along with the Mansour Gate, Morocco’s largest. After lunch in the city proceed North 4 hrs to Tangier, the once den of intrigue on the Strait of Gibraltar. Continental dinner at the hotel.
HOTEL: The historic El Minzah, built in the style of a parador in the center of the city, just above the Kasbah and Tangier port (2 nights).
APRIL 24: Tangier
Travelers walked to the Kasbah in the morning, seeing its rich produce markets and local wares, in addition to the American Legation Museum. They took lunch in a private home on Tangier’s famed Hill, which includes a beautiful seaside garden. From there travelers headed to the Malabata Cape, where they had a sweeping view of the city and could glimpse the coast of Spain across the Strait. Then, there was a reception at the city’s premier art gallery, showcasing both Tangier’s new wave of painters as well as Orientalist-style European artists.
APRIL 25: Rabat
Travelers were transfered South to the capital Rabat, recently added to the World Heritage List. After a seafood lunch by the crashing waves of the Atlantic, they enjoyed a leisurely walk by Oudaya Kasbah. Then they saw Morocco’s only archeological museum, renowned for its Roman and prehistoric collections. They concluded their trip at the mausoleum of modern Morocco’s “father” Mohammed V.
APRIL 26: Home-bound
A 1.5 hour transfer to Casablanca airport or a 30 minute transfer to Rabat airport for the home-bound flights.